MISSOULA – With work ramping up again on the Russell Street Bridge project, the Montana Department of Transportation is hoping for continued cooperation, and public input, as another construction season begins.
Missoula District Administrator Ed Toavs had a lot of concerns about traffic and business impacts when the project was moving into full speed a year ago. But now, he says the cooperation between the contractors, businesses and those tens of thousands of drivers has helped keep everything moving smoothly.
“My hat’s off to Dick Anderson and their subcontractors and our construction crews because I think that everybody knows that Russell Street is just a very, very busy road,” Toavs said. “So they’ve really been conscientious trying to work with business access, but yet trying to get folks through. That’s been an issue of importance.”
And this coming summer promises its own impacts. With contractors pouring concrete this week, the new, eastern span could be carrying traffic by the end of April. But then, the old bridge must be torn out, and the second, downstream span put into place.
Then there’s also the construction of the bridge approaches, especially on the north side, where Russell Street meets West Broadway in one of the busiest intersections in Missoula. But MDT is promising to do more public outreach as it develops the schedule, making sure residents know what to expect.
“You know, it’s really minimized a lot of the complaints that we’ve got about Russell Street,” Toavs said. “In fact, what’s interesting is that this last season Russell Street was by far the biggest contract that we had at $30 million. Or nearly $30 million. And yet I had probably about the fewest complaints on that project, of any project we did in the Missoula Valley area.”
If everything stays on track, the new bridges will be in service in 2020.